Gazing into the abyss naturally results in a situation where the abyss gazes back at you. Are we ready to follow the monster to the end, since the abyss has already started hollowing our hearts?
Are we free to speak our mind as individuals or we need to check every thought before saying anything? The eternal debate between the status quo and change is on the rise around the globe, because conservative opinion is gaining ground and is seeking to retract the space from under the feet of freedoms already guaranteed in many liberal democracies.
The impact on countries and societies that are still grappling to constitute true democratic structures is very strong, and ominous. The conservative and outright rightist trends in Europe and North America are breathing new life into the borderline, contested stands in countries like Pakistan. The ideas of repression and control of human thought and action in all forms possible are gaining new vigour. The pet argument of the conservative opinion that freedom is never unlimited is gaining wider audience and becoming more inclusive. It has got a new transformation and the latest argument is not about the limits of freedom globally, but the ills of freedom; something already ‘visible’ in the West.
This is a dangerous trend in countries like Pakistan where the powers of status quo have always been favouring obscurantism socially. Self censorship is omnipresent among the masses, but it is growing like a weed into the minds and actions of men and women who are toiling for transparency, participation, justice and equality. Tradition is the biggest enemy of freedom. Not that tradition is intrinsically evil. Nothing is intrinsically good or bad! It is the context that drives actions into virtues or vices. The enmity between tradition and freedom lies in the control of traditional discourse and the way it affects change. Anything new needs to be appropriated with tradition. In a free society, novelty would rise on merit, while in a closed structure it will have to go through the herculean labours to get a sympathetic ear. In Pakistan, there is no chance to get a sympathetic ear. From the very onset the country has feared freedom and this fear has been instilled in the minds of the people through a steady structural exercise.
Being socially appropriate in the sense of not challenging the status quo is ‘righteous action’. Challenging the status quo is vulgar, plain and simple. The moment we dare getting out of the robes of our forefathers, currently donned by the rulers, both de jure and de facto, we get into enemy territory. The patronising hand of local goodness no more shadows on our heads. We are on our own. But we are not free to be on our own. We are not even given a chance to prove that our path is in consonance with the tradition and will indeed help evolve the tradition. We are enemies of the folk, pariahs in our own homes.
The ideas of repression and control of humanthought and action in all forms possible are gaining new vigour. The pet argument of the conservative opinion that freedom is never unlimited is gaining wider audience and becoming more inclusive
This is the history of freedom of thought and expression in this country. The power wielders in this country were successful enough to disguise their own biases in the name of tradition and culture. They found agency in the naïve minds wanting to get popular in a disrespectful discourse structure. This agency is getting wider every passing day. We have custodians of truth at every home and hearth, the ones who don’t know what they are defending. In plain and simple household and friendly discourses, there is this pert negation of free will and a consistent affirmation of slavishness. One would always confront criticism of looking at ourselves with the eyes of the other, but never would one come across any complaints of the overwhelming blindness in our souls to see the obvious.
The question is not that of looking at oneself through one’s own eyes or that of others. It is not relevant any more. The bigger question is, indeed, whether we are seeing anything at all. Those who champion freedom within boundaries should also ponder on the walls within which they want to put themselves. The gazing into abyss results naturally in the abyss gazing into you. Are we ready to follow the monster to the end, since the abyss has already started hollowing our hearts?
Humanity demands sublimation of the self. Sublimation is impossible without holistic change. And holistic change is not a piece of furniture to be made in a certain design. It needs the change of men and women in the very heart of their hearts. And this is an improvement that begins with an ‘I’. The nostalgic beings who look for a golden future in the past are offering nothing but doom. They need to change, or need to be changed, for the sake of our very existence as humans on this planet.